It was a way of reminding ourselves who we are and where we come from. Crossing the areas hit by the storm was particularly significant at a time like this, fresh from the peak of the health emergency and spectators of an economic crisis that is calling us to rise up and reinvent ourselves.
What follows is the diary of a three-day event we have called ‘TransVAIA’, which represents our desire to restart, an opportunity of redemption for the area, and an opening on the beauty of our Peninsula.
On the VAIA Trail: a prelude
One of the best-known customs of long-distance hikers is leaving at dawn. We immediately transgress the good habit by making an appointment at 8:30 a.m. and set off at a leisurely pace after a good coffee. We leave from Pergine Valsugana, a small town near Trento, heading south-east, along the valley that a well-known folk song has popularised throughout Italy.
We pass Rifugio Crucolo, known since 1782 for its cold meats and cheeses, but above all for its Parampampoli, a spicy alcoholic beverage made from grappa and coffee that warms the travellers’ sunrises and sunsets. The caravan continues to climb up the narrow asphalt road towards the parking lot at an altitude of 1467 metres. Although it is not the earliest hour of the morning (the clock reads 10:30) and it’s Friday, we find a spot for our cars with ease.
On the trail of VAIA: day #1
We begin our hike on the trail n. 317, in the direction of Laghi di Rocco or Buse Basse at 2124m. Right from the start, the signs of the October 2018 VAIA storm are evident, with several logs felled right on the path, forcing us to alternate between slalom and obstacle walking.
The trail is for the first hour a pleasant hike through the woods, out of the sun and with a sustained climb, and the group stays together. At the end of the wood, the path becomes flat for a few minutes, in the middle of green meadows, letting us admire the Lagorai of Fiemme in all of its extension.
After a short break, we are ready to set off again towards the small lakes, where the longed-for lunch break is planned. The forest gives way to wilder landscapes, made up of peaks, valleys, and meadows dotted with more or less rugged rocks. The sky starts to get cloudy, and as soon as the trail reaches Forcella Valsorda, a cold wind whips us. But luckily, we are almost there, another half an hour and the intermediate stage will be reached.
The lake is deserted, all for ourselves, and our rucksacks become treasure chests from which we extract sandwiches, bars, chocolate and a home-made spritz. It’s also a time to take the cameras out of their cases, have a quiet chat without being out of breath, let the freshly cut salami fly, take a refreshing dip (why not). We are tired but satisfied, we were hungry and now we are full, and the phone doesn’t get service: peace is assured.
The next part of the day’s stage is downhill, over the Cinque Croci pass in the direction of Malga Conseria (1846 m), which will host us for the next two nights. The natural terrace in front of the malga opens up to a breathtaking view of the Rava group, illuminated by the rosy evening colours.
What a relief to finally be able to get rid of backpacks and boots! It almost seems as if we have walked all day waiting for this moment. After a well-deserved beer in the company of friends, we wait for dinner, which is served on time, at 7pm. We dip our spoon into a warm vegetable soup, then our fork into polenta with melted cheese – the food, too, tells the story of our host territory.
On the trail of VAIA: days #2 and #3
The following day is dedicated to retracing the marks of History. The Lagorai chain was the scene of the Great War, and is littered with signs, more or less visible. Following the L38 Path of Memory, we proceed towards the nearby Socede Peak to explore the remaining infrastructure, including some trenches, the perimeter walls of some shelters, and two machine gun and cannon emplacements. Some rusty remains of pots, nails and shells leave a further testimony of the Great War. To think that men younger than us camped to defend these posts for years, surviving winters far harsher than those of today, literally gives the shivers.
The final day closes our trip, touching on a very suggestive place in Campelle Valley: Rifugio Caldenave. After a hearty breakfast of homemade cake, bread, butter and jam, we set off from our beloved mountain hut and descend to a comfortable forest road.
The road then narrows into a path that crosses the wood through small streams, opening out onto the Caldenave plain. Dominated by the refuge of the same name, the plain is a small green expanse surrounded by trees, in the midst of which a small stream meanders lazily, opening up into small round, clear pools. On the right, the path skirts the mountain to the recently renovated hut.
It’s Sunday, and many people have chosen, as we have, to spend their day in this little paradise. The group is enriched by collaborators and friends who could not share the entire route with us: it is the opportunity to see each other again after a long time, scattered as we are in various regions of Italy (and beyond).
Behind the refuge, the view opens up to another opening, which once housed a lake, set in the ridges that surround it. It is the perfect place to end our hike, a journey to rediscover the origins of VAIA and our beautiful Italy.
Yes, we still have to walk and reach the parking lot, but thinking about the return sparks my nostalgia and I stop here, at the memory-frame of a young, determined and sun-kissed group.